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Cellular and molecular mechanisms of sensory transduction in the inner ear

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How do the sense organs convert the stimuli they receive into electrical signals that have to be processed and elaborated by the central nervous system? Sensory transduction is the physiological mechanism underlying this multi-faceted topic. ...

How do the sense organs convert the stimuli they receive into electrical signals that have to be processed and elaborated by the central nervous system? Sensory transduction is the physiological mechanism underlying this multi-faceted topic.
The sensory receptors are specialized cells which have developed specific structures designed for the transduction of physical into electrical signals. Different kinds of stimuli cause the generation of a receptor potential due to the opening of ion channels located in the plasma membrane of the specialized sensory region of the cells. The ion channels fine-tune the ionic fluxes through specialized gating mechanisms.
In the acoustic and vestibular system, several aspects of the sensory transduction process are still unclear. The osmotic balance that regulates potassium concentration in the endolymph and perilymph as well as the neuromodulators implicated in synaptic transmission are far to be completely understood. Moreover, mutations of genes coding for specialized proteins of the inner ear sensory receptors can cause cellular degeneration, leading to disabling syndromes in humans.
As far as the elaboration of the signals is concerned, the inner ear sensory cells project to the vestibular and cochlear nuclei through the eight cranial nerve. Central projections of the vestibular section of the nerve contact secondary neurons located in the brainstem (vestibular nuclei) and in the cerebellum, which provide the anatomical basis for the vestibular reflexes. The auditory component of the eighth nerve terminates in the cochlear nucleus which is located at the junction of the pons and medulla and projects then to the auditory cortex. Impairment in the cochlear transduction mechanisms and in auditory nerve transmission can result in a sensorineural hearing loss.
With this research topic, we aim to give a picture of the latest studies on this fascinating aspect of cellular neuroscience, focusing on the molecular, cellular, functional, and pathophysiological aspects of sensory transduction in the inner ear.


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